Considered among the finest in the world, China’s cured ham still struggles to tell its story
Even in the humid heart of southeast China’s rice country in Jiangxi province, something akin to winter begins every December. Those days, when the temperature drops to zero and there’s a bite to the air you can breathe, my grandmother starts curing salty pork for the season ahead.
“We’ll have the meat ready to eat for the New Year. All our neighbors must be doing the same,” she’ll say, producing a ball of string to hang the darkened meat strips to dry beside the laundry. “There’s no need to take a picture.”
All the temperate regions of China have stories about the meats they preserve. On my grandmother’s Spring Festival table, larou (腊肉) and lachang (腊肠)—pork belly and sausage—tell tales about deprivation and survival. Cured on our own balcony, they pack a salty punch to the palate even now, when they are no longer the meatiest dish the family can afford all year.
Hamstrung is a story from our issue, “Beyond Go.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.